Europe wants more renewable energy to increase its energy security

The European Commission today presented new measures in response to rising electricity prices in Europe. The measures are strongly influenced by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Commission wants Europe to accelerate the deployment of renewable energies in order to increase energy security and in particular to reduce its dependence on imports of fossil fuels from Russia.

WindEurope welcomes the European Commission’s goal to completely end Russian fossil fuel imports before the end of the decade. To this end, the Commission today presented the ‘RePowerEU’ plan with faster expansion of wind power and other renewables at its heart.

The European Commission recalls the central role of renewable energies in guaranteeing Europe’s energy security. Europe still imports 58% of its energy, mostly fossil fuels and often from countries with serious geopolitical risks. Wind power is produced locally and cheaper than imported fossil fuels. Each wind farm contributes to making Europe less dependent on imported fossil fuels.

The European Union wants wind power to account for 50% of its electricity by 2050. This means increasing onshore wind from 173 GW today to 1,000 GW and offshore wind from 16 GW to 300 GW . The Commission suggests that an additional 30 GW of wind power, on top of the 450 GW predicted by its decarbonisation scenarios, could be deployed by the end of 2030.

Basically, it all depends on permissions. The European Commission recognizes the fundamental need to simplify the authorization of new renewable energy projects. Improving permits is “an urgent matter” for Europe’s energy transition. Lengthy and overly complex permit procedures are the main obstacle to the expansion of wind energy. The EU is currently only building around half of the new wind farms it needs to reach its 40% renewable energy target by 2030. The European Commission will present guidance to national governments on How? ‘Or’ What to improve permits in May 2022.

WindEurope welcomes the recognition by the European Commission of the essential role of the European wind energy supply chain in securing our energy supply. Wind energy provides 300,000 jobs in 248 factories in Europe and contributes €37 billion to EU GDP each year. Each new wind turbine installed in Europe generates an average of €10 million in economic activity. But Europe is not building enough new wind energy. The current slow pace of wind energy production has left the European wind energy supply chain in poor health. Without strong measures that support the European supply chain, there will be no “made in Europe” energy transition.

“More than ever, Europe needs to exploit its immense wind energy resources. Accelerating the growth of wind power is essential to achieving energy security. And we have to do it with European technology. Europe must do everything to preserve our first wind energy supply chain in the world. Accelerate permit. Have smarter wind auctions that consider wind energy’s contributions to a robust, resilient and circular economy. And boost research and development,” says Giles Dickson, CEO of WindEurope.

The massive and rapid expansion of renewable energy requires huge volumes of new investment. To this end, the rules of the European electricity market must ensure regulatory stability.

The Commission document outlines measures to mitigate the impact of high electricity prices on vulnerable households and businesses. WindEurope supports this objective. National governments should prioritize using the increased carbon price and tax revenue resulting from high energy prices to protect vulnerable consumers.

Some national governments have introduced or are considering clawbacks to impose what they consider to be “windfall profits”. The Commission communication sets out very clear conditions for the use of such measures. They must be applied for a limited period and linked to predefined market conditions. They cannot apply retroactively. And they should not apply to electricity that producers have already sold forward through long-term PPAs or bilateral contracts.

WindEurope asks the European Commission to ensure that national governments enforce these conditions. Misguided use of clawbacks would create market distortions, deter investment and derail the expansion of renewable energy that we urgently need.

Mary I. Bruner